A recent statement from Amazon reveals that the current number of robotic units working alongside people in its fulfillment centers has increased 50 percent since the third quarter of 2015. Today, 45,000 robotic units are in operation in 20 Amazon distribution centers helping associates fulfill and distribute online customer orders.
In the last two years, Amazon has launched operations at over a dozen new fulfillment facilities, many of which house robotic technology. Amazon’s human workforce has reportedly exploded in recent years, with GeekWire reporting the latest numbers around 306,000 working for Amazon worldwide. Amazon added some 120,000 additional workers to staff its fulfillment centers during the holiday season rush — a 20 percent increase on the 100,000 Amazon brought in to fill out its holiday ranks last year.
But the real surge this year for Amazon was in robotics. The number of Amazon’s robot units has reportedly increased 14 percent in its ratio to Amazon’s human workforce — up from 10 percent at the end of 2014 and 13.4 percent in the third quarter of 2015. Moshe Vardi, an expert on artificial intelligence at Rice University, was quoted as saying, “U.S. factories are not disappearing; they simply aren’t employing human workers.”
In fact, the first half of 2016 set new records for robots ordered for manufacturing and business purposes in North America. In total, 14,583 robots, or $817 million worth of robots, were ordered by North American companies during the first half of 2016 — 2 percent growth over the totals from the same period last year. The Robotic Industries Association estimates that there are about 265,000 robots in use in factories in North America, which ranks third behind Japan and China.